May 12, 2012
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Tennessee carded its second-best round of the season in the final 18 holes of the NCAA Central Regional to climb the leader board Saturday, claiming fourth place and punching a ticket to the 2012 NCAA Championship to be held in Nashville May 22-25.
The Lady Vols capitalized on 17 birdies to finish the Regional's final round with a two-over 290 tally. The Tennessee score was the second-lowest total of the round.
"To shoot 290 - that is a great score on this golf course," head coach Judi Pavon said. "This is a really, really hard course. The four scores of 75 or better were really solid and are really good scores no matter what course you are playing on."
Junior Erica Popson paced the Tennessee scores, recording the Big Orange's only round under par of the weekend with a two-under 70. The Davenport, Fla., native used four birdies on the back nine to dip under par for the first time in six rounds.
"I played a lot better today," Popson said. "I hit a lot of fairways and hit a lot of greens to give myself some good birdie opportunities and I finally made some putts today. "
All five Tennessee golfers recorded birdies in the final round of the Central Regional. The Lady Vols used solid performances from each player to make the jump up the leader board.
"I'm really proud of our team," Popson added. "Everybody played well and it was an amazing team effort to step up on the last day when we really needed to to go to nationals."
Aided by a team-high five birdies, senior Nathalie Mansson carded an even 72 in round three. With an 80-76-72=228 tally, the Stockholm, Sweden, native finished the regional tied for 26th position.
Tennessee's low scorer at the regional, sophomore Chessey Thomas turned in a 1-over 73 Saturday. The Spokane, Wash., product earned a share of 14th place with a 74-77-73=224 total.
Freshman AJ Newell recorded her third consecutive solid round, contributing a 3-over 75 to the team score. The Lady Vol rookie came up with a 75-77-75=227 tally in her first NCAA tournament, earning a share of 23rd place.
Rounding out the Tennessee scores was junior Sara Monberg whose 77-83-78=238 mark was good for a tie for 75th.
With the top-eight finish, the Lady Vols advance to their fourth consecutive NCAA Championships. Tennessee finished 13th in 2011 with the program's highest finish coming in 2000 when the Big Orange placed fifth at the tournament.
Southern California's Lisa McCloskey and Florida State's Maria Salinas finished the regional atop the individual leaderboard with 3-under 213 tallies.
The No. 1-seeded Trojans finished first with a 10-over 874 total. The other six teams heading to Texas are: Vanderbilt (899), Purdue (902), Virginia (905), Ohio State (908), North Carolina State (911) and Arkansas (913).
The 2012 NCAA Championship will be held at the Vanderbilt Legends Club May 22-25.